Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hedley
Attendees of the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction at the WestWorld Equidome in Scottsdale, Arizona, witnessed a hyper-competitive game of high-goal arena polo that was a battle until the very end. The John R. Townsend International Challenge Cup is a 20-goal arena match played between the United States and the United Kingdom every other year. In 2013, the U.K. won in overtime, and two years ago, the USA prevailed 17-12 over the U.K. This year the USA team was represented by arena 10-goaler Tommy Biddle Jr., Shane Rice (7-goals) and Steve Krueger (4-goals). Jonny Good (8-goals), Max Charlton (9-goals), Ed Banner-Eve (5-goals) with coach Michael Amoore flew across the pond and arrived in Arizona earlier this week with one objective—bring the perpetual trophy back to the U.K.
U.K. made it on the board early in the first chukker, but Krueger quickly answered, foreshadowing a pattern that would prevail throughout the match. USA fought hard against a talented team of Brits, ending the first chukker with a 5-3 lead. Townsend Cup Team USA veteran Biddle Jr. began the second chukker with a booming two-point backshot to goal that brought the crowd of 1500 to their feet, bringing the score 7-3. Charlton retaliated scoring three consecutive goals in the first three minutes, adding an additional two, later in the chukker. The USA continued to score however, maintaining the lead 10-8 going into the half.
With extreme confidence, USA’s Krueger scored at the onset of the second half. Charlton, hungry for the win, made a decisive shot from the 40-yard line to put an additional two goals on the board, followed by another out of the line-up to tie the game 11-all. A goal from Banner-Eve put the U.K. in the lead by one, but an attempt to clear the ball from in front of the U.K. goal by Good resulted in one for the USA.
The game was tied 12-all going into the final chukker and the U.K. quickly pulled ahead by two. Biddle Jr. determined not to let his team stay down for long, answered with a two-pointer to tie it back up. Krueger and Rice, determined to keep the Townsend Cup trophy at home, followed with four combined goals for the USA to recapture the lead 18-14. Feeling the pressure, Charlton scored a two-pointer with two minutes left in regulation play. Time was running out but the battle continued, and Biddle Jr. lofted the ball into the rafters with less than six seconds left. The ball was thrown in and the U.K. had an immediate break away. Charlton took a strong shot to goal, but time ran out.
The USA captured the Townsend Cup title with the final score of 18-16. The Most Valuable Player of the game was awarded to Team USPA member Steve Krueger. Best Playing Pony was presented to Woody owned by George Dill.